Whisky barrels to journey in style

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Barrels of maturing Oamaru whisky are riding pillion on a motorbike tour from Christchurch to Invercargill.

The whisky is the new Spirit of Munro created by the New Zealand Whisky Company, based in Harbour St, Oamaru. It will be launched at Invercargill’s Burt Munro Festival this weekend.

“The constant agitation of the new-make spirit in the barrel, strapped on as a pillion passenger, will also accelerate the uptake of flavours and colour from the maturation cask, so it’ll be pretty exciting to see how these whiskies mature,” New Zealand Whisky Company general manager Grant Finn said.

The ride involves a convoy of American classic Indian Chieftain motorbikes ridden by whisky experts from Australia and New Zealand.

Ready to roar . . . The New Zealand Whisky Company in Oamaru’s Harbour St is one destination on the quirky tour. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Their route includes “the emerging New Zealand whisky trail of Oamaru, Lammermoor Station, Cardrona, Gore and Dunedin”, New Zealand Whisky Company founder Greg Ramsay said.

He describes the venture as “a tour with a difference” to strengthen co-operation between the whisky-makers and “welcome newcomers to the fraternity”.

Mr Finn said motorbikes were the vehicles of choice thanks to Aucklander Jak Jakecevich, who recently toured Tasmania by bike with “the godfather of the Australian whisky revival” Bill Lark and his friend, Mark Nicholson.

As well as earning a place in the Scottish Whisky Hall of Fame, Mr Lark has mentored more than 50 distilleries in the last decade.

With Mr Jakecevich scheduled to compete in the Burt Munro Festival, a plan began.

“A firm friendship was struck behind the handlebars, and the boys wanted to come and see Jak race at Invercargill, celebrate Burt Munro’s legacy and support our Spirit of Munro launch and charity auction this weekend,” Mr Finn said.

Mr Finn is leading penny-farthings and mountainbikers into Oamaru to join the bikers for a whisky picnic at the harbour.

Mr Lark said he and Mr Ramsay had helped to develop distilleries as far away as Chicago and Scotland.

“Already several Tasmanian-made stills are in operation here, or have been commissioned by New Zealand start-ups, so it seemed like a great time to get back over.

“Lots of my family are fortunate to live over here, and among our group, we all have really strong New Zealand connections.”

Mr Lark and Mr Nicholson have been commissioned to star in a six-part television series, Motorbiking the Malt Whisky Trails of the World

“Mark is known back home as the Butcher Poet, because he transitioned from making famous smallgoods to acclaim in English literature and poetry,” Mr Lark said.

“But back in his 20s, he served as a meat inspector in Southland and Canterbury while he was trying to qualify for the All Blacks squad after the Wallabies overlooked him in the second row.

“He’ll be foraging for local foodie gems to feast on each night.”

A film crew will accompany the tour to shoot footage for the TV series.